lesson learned from a digital nomad

It's hard to nail down exactly when my digital nomad journey began. Perhaps the moment the world shut down and my previously in-person job became virtual. Perhaps it was the moment I relocated from the Bay Area back to Louisiana to spend time with my family- having just launched my own business full-time. Or, could it have been the morning of January 6th, 2021 when I woke up in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico about to set off on a journey of living abroad that was going to change my life forever?

The thing about a label like digital nomad is...it's largely about mindset. I lived in Merida for almost 3 months before realizing that a weekend trip to Mexico City didn't have to result in me returning. "Why did you book a return flight?" I asked myself about a week before my trip. "You want to see more of this beautiful country, don't you?", I continued, "and you can literally work from ANYWHERE!". It was a strange notion initially... I mean, it sounded good. Digital. Nomad. The illustrious title that so many millennials before me have embraced. And the name tends to land synonymously with "freedom". However, over the last year and a half, I have learned so much more about the life of a digital nomad. Less, it seems, an immediate sense of freedom, and more a journey of shedding my understanding of what life means to me.

  1. everyone defines the digital nomad lifestyle differently. What comes to mind when you think about being a digital nomad? Turns out that varies widely from person to person. I've met people who travel full-time- quickly planning out and reaching their next destination week to week. Others are at home in a permanent locale, planted securely in front of their computers for months on end. Maybe they travel every once in a while, finding more joy in the ease of leaving without the need for permission than the state of constant movement. Then there are people like me- the slow travelers. I learned that moving around quickly can promptly leave me feeling disoriented (see #2) and I enjoy taking my time to get to know the culture and community of a given city. The type of depth that only spending one month or longer in a particular place can offer. All of these are valid and there are more styles to this life than you can imagine. The reality is, however, that sometimes learning your preferred lifestyle takes some challenging trial and error.

  2. Grounding is vital. Grounding is finding some stability in our lives, a place that we can come back to mentally, physically, or emotionally. When it comes to living a nomadic life, grounding became my lifeline. When you wake up in AirBnBs, hotels, or homes in different cities regularly it is easy to lose yourself. We often take for granted how impactful waking up to the same surroundings can be, even just having access to the belongings that support our day-to-day lives. Creating some stability however you can becomes important. For me, a solid morning routine that includes meditation and movement was that thread. They became the things for me to lean on when everything around me was unfamiliar. They allowed me time to be present in my own body and mind, reminding me of my values and true nature. Other forms of grounding can be having a familiar item from home, favorite essential oil for support, or even a favorite tv show you can watch on the road. It really is the little things.

  3. community is broad and more beautiful than i could have imagined. Even as an introvert and homebody, I have managed to meet some amazing people around the world. The bittersweet world of introducing people into your life during a moment in time and then saying goodbye when you eventually head out again. I still think about the couple that owns the fresh juice stand in Brisas de Zicatela, Oaxaca. I just so happened to be on a spiritual cleanse during my month there and for me, that meant a mostly raw vegan diet at the time. Needless to say I visited this stand every. single. day. I got to learn from them about the history of political activism in Oaxaca, their family, their stories, and we even had a great language exchange happening to support one another's efforts in practicing. I could tell you stories like this from every place I've stayed and while leaving can be hard, I love knowing that I have been able to expand my sense of community in the world. And I look forward to returning to these new found communities as well as the ones that are a part of my own story- visiting family and friends in the United States when I can. This has defined for me the difference between traveling alone and being lonely.

  4. life is so much more than work. Ofcourse we know this, but rarely do we experience this. Again, we live in a world where many of us are exchanging time for money and this can be key to survival. However, my time as a digital nomad has put this into beautiful perspective. When you live your life in a way that prioritizes you, your desires, your dreams, your interests...everything else in your life starts to shift. Your relationship with others, your relationship with yourself, your relationship with the planet, with history, and possibly the greatest shift happens with work. First, I have less needs as a nomadic person. My bills are few and far between these days without the need for a car or some of the other conveniences required in previous iterations of my life. Next, I move slower. More intentionally. Thoughtfully able to engage in a practice of asking myself what I need in the moment. Having the flexibility to address them as they arise. And at this point there is no turning back. I have to have a relationship with income that supports this flexibility. This freedom. It forces me to be so much more intentional with how I spend every waking hour, including those that I spend working. And while that seems like a liberated way of moving through the world, I am in the midst of a huge life transition. I am actively seeking ways to decolonize my business and work practices to support this evolution. It's been a struggle to say the least. Change and transformation are not without shedding former versions of ourselves. But when I think about the life I want to live. There is no other way.

Everyday uncovers more and more depth to this journey and transformation. I am committed to continuing to define life on my terms, stay grounded, lean on community for love and support (reciprocally), and remember that life is so much more than I ever thought it could be!

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